The Usual Suspects.



"What's your favorite movie?"

When I teach classes or lead discussions or have to (for some horrible reason) facilitate ice-breakers I usually use this question. I love film, and so for me it's a fun question to answer and most people have an opinion about it.

For me, for years, I used to say The Usual Suspects was my favorite film. I'd even follow up my answer with "best ending ever!"

And then The 6th Sense came out.

Then I saw Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, and Good Will Hunting. And then it becomes more nuanced: favorite drama? Favorite romantic comedy? PIXAR film? Action flick? Favorite 'B' movie? Indie film? Horror? Trilogy?

All of a sudden it gets very complicated. Because now the conversation has shifted to "What's your favorite movie" to "What do you look for in a favorite movie?"

And The Usual Suspects answer I used to just throw out because I thought about it once when I was 20-years-old all of a sudden seems...well...inadequate.

Now, some people know their answer and it hasn't changed and it will never change even if they're favorite movie was Howard the Duck or Mission to Mars. Some people used to know the answer but a few months ago they saw a new movie that's now their favorite movie, but they don't realize it yet (and won't until they really think about it). Some people have no clue and would have to think about it for a while before they gave an answer that is pretty close to their favorite movie (but might not be their favorite movie)...

And still others have no clue and couldn't care less.

And this is just a simple question about film.

What about the deeper questions: What do you want to do with your life? What are your values? Why is Gladiator loved so much when it's just an average rip-off of Braveheart?

If answering "What's your favorite movie" is so incredibly complicated, how are we to approach these more daunting (yet arguably more important) questions?

What about our pat answers? Are they still authentic? Is what I wanted out of life in college what I should want now? Is what I wanted out of life in my 20s what I should want in my 30s? Is "what do I want out of life" the best question? Is "What can I give back to life" better? Why would I choose one over the other?

And are we to figure this stuff out on our own? Are we to read some blog, then sit for an hour or day or week and then emerge from our existential cocoons with a new awakening? Has that ever happened to anyone other than cult leaders?

Or do we need friends for the journey?

Do we need friends and communities that give dignity-- not just answers-- to the important questions in life? Do we need spaces in our cities where people are safe to ask difficult questions, and encouraged to abandon safe answers for difficult but more rewarding lives?

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